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Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0099

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Tyler, Royall
Date: 1783-06-14

Abigail Adams to Royall Tyler

I had thoughts of writing to you before I received my last Letters from abroad, because you have frequently flatterd me with an assurance that my advise is not unacceptable to you.1 I thought I had some hints to drop to you which might Serve your interest. I feel an additional motive to take my pen, and communicate to you a passage from my Last Letter.2
“My dear daughters happiness employs my Thoughts Night and { 174 } day. Do not let her form any connection with any one who is not devoted intirely to Study and to Buisness—To honour and to virtue. If there is a Trait of Frivolity and dissapation left I pray that She may renounce it forever; I ask not Fortune nor favour for mine, But prudence Talents and Labour—She may go with my consent whereever She can find enough of these.”
You have before you sentiments and principals which your Reason must assent to, and your judgment approve, as the only solid foundation upon which a youth can Build: who is entering into Life, with satisfaction to his own mind, or a prospect of happiness for his connections. Talants are not wanting, shall they lack Labour for improvement, or industery for cultivation?
Honour and virtue, are they not inmates and companions? Is their a Trait of Frivolity and dissapation left? Examine your own Heart with candour, let it not deceive you. These are the Rocks and quick Sands. Dissapation enervates the Man, dissolves every good purpose and resolution, it excuses a thousand ways his deviations from the path of Rectitude, and in the end becomes his distroyer. It puts on like a mere Proteous a thousand different forms, and too frequently calls itself Relaxation. The one is necessary the other ruinous. To draw the line requires both skill and judgment; perhaps there is no more certain cure for dissapation, than method, and order, and were I to advise any one liable to this infirmity, it would be to portion out the Day, and appropriate a certain Number of Hours to Study, or to Buisness. With a determined Resolution to be inflexable against every temptation which might allure them from their purpose; untill fixed habits were formed which could not be easily shaken.
Perhaps more industery and application, are necessary, in the profession of the Law, in order to become Eminent; than in either phisick, or divinity; if it is, as I realy believe, in the power of my young Friend, to become so; it is also a duty incumbent upon him. Doubling the Talant of him, who possesst but one, would have obtaind him the Eulogy of a Faithfull Servant, but if he to whom ten was committed had gained only one, how neglegent and Sothfull would he have been deemed?3
Have you not Ambition, let it warm you to Emulation, let it fire you to rise to a Superiour height; to be well accomplished in your profession, I have heard a Friend of mine4 observe that it was indispensably necessary to have a perfect knowledge of the Theory of Goverment, and foundations of society, to study Humane Nature not { 175 } to disguise, but to present Truth in her Native Loveliness. Shall I not See you become an honour to your profession in the excersise of a generous candour; an inflexable integrity; strict punctuality, and exact decision, virtues which are by no means incompatable with your profession, notwithstanding the Sarcastick reflexions it is daily liable to. If you can find within your own breast any additional motives, let them serve to enforce my Recommendations. I have so far interested myself in your advancement in Life, as to feel a peculiar satisfaction in your increasing Buisness. I shall rejoice in your success, and in the consistancy of your Character. Much depends upon a uniformity of conduct. There is a strenght of mind, a firmness and intrepidity which we look for in a masculine character—an April countanance, now Sunshine and then cloudy, can only be excused in a Baby faced girl—in your sex, it has not the appearence of Nature, who is our best guide.——Be assured you have my best wishes that you may merit and obtain whatever may conduce to your happiness, for I am most Sincerely a Friend to Your Fame; and a Lover of your Virtues. Adieu—
RC (VtHi: Royall Tyler Coll.); addressed: “To Mr Royal Tyler Braintree”; docketed, in an unknown hand: “From Mrs John Adams to R. Tyler Esq. June 1783.”
1. The period is supplied.
2. That is, JA to AA , 28 March, above; see note 5.
3. See Matthew 25:14–30.
4. Probably JA .

Docno: ADMS-04-05-02-0100

Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Tyler, Royall
Date: 1783-06-14

Abigail Adams to Royall Tyler?

You wish me to devote half an hour to you in your absence; you requested and I comply, to shew you that I have a disposition to oblige, but I am very unequal to the task you have assigned as I have no Herculian properties, but can say with Gays Shepard

“the little knowledge I have gaind

is all from simple nature draind.”

I study her as my surest safest guide, for our actions must not only be right, but expedient, they must not only be agreable to virtue but to prudence. It was upon this principal that my late advise2 was founded. You differd so widely from me in sentiment, that I determined never again to tender an opinion unaskd—yet I did not wish you any further influenced by it than appeard to me, to conduce to your <own> happiness.
{ 176 }
Horace has in some of his Epistles this sentiment better one thorn pluct out than all remain, Humane nature is represented by an english poet as a wild where weeds and flowers promiscuous shoot

A garden tempting with forbiden fruit.

Let it be our study to cultivate the flowers, and root out the weeds, to nourish with a softening care and attention those tender Blossoms, that they may be neither blasted in their prime nor witherd in their bloom but as the blossom falls may the fruit <encrease> yet green <. . . to a perfect> ripen into maturity untill the Beauty of its appearence, shall tempt some Fair hand to pluck it from its native soil and transplant it in one still more <beneficial> conducive to its perfection.
Sternses observation may be just, but King Richards was a more independant one. God says, he helps those who help themselves.3 Advise is of little avail unless it is reduced to practise nor ought we implicitly to give up<on> our judgement to any one what ever may be our regard or esteem for them untill we have weighed and canvassed that advise with our reason and judgment—then if it is right agreable to virtue expedient and prudent we ought strictly to adhere to it—a mutability of temper and inconsistency with ourselves is the greatest weakness of Humane Nature, and will render us little and contemtable in the Eyes of the World. There are certain principal which ought to become unchangeable in us justice temperance fortitude hold the first rank—he who possesses these will soon have all others added unto him.
I have not been alone to day. My Weymouth Friends dined with me together with my sister and cousins. You was kindly enquired after, and the vacant Chair lookt solitary. The provision too was not carved with that dexterity and allertness which your hand is accustomed to.4 This evening—I know you think of your solitary Friend—whilst the lightning plays from cloud to cloud and threatens a tempestous Night. You wish yourself at hand to read me some amuseing or entertaining subject, or to beguile the hour with the incidents of the past day, or converse upon some literary subject, but my little slumbering Guests are all locked in the Arms of sleep. My candle and my pen are all my companions. I send my thoughts across the broad Atlantick in serch of my associate and rejoice that thought and immagination are not confined like my person to the small spot on which I exist.

[salute] Adieu—I have complied with your request recive it in the Spirit of Friendship for that alone dictates to the pen of your Friend

[signed] A A
{ 177 }
1. The editors have redated this letter, originally filed and filmed at [June–July 1779] [1779] , Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 350. Royall Tyler is AA 's likely correspondent for several reasons. First, the letter seems to be a response to a reaction by Tyler to AA 's letter of 14 June, above. Second, Tyler is the only person outside the family who enjoyed such an intimate relationship with AA 's household in JA 's absence. Finally, AA 's mention of her correspondent's carving abilities, at note 4, resembles a passage in a later AA letter that almost certainly refers to Tyler.
2. See AA to Royall Tyler, 14 June, above.
3. This may be AA 's joke, since one source of this saying, which appears as early as AEsop's fables, is Benjamin Franklin's Maxims Prefixed to Poor Richard's Almanac (1757). See also AA to Dr. Thomas Welsh, [25 Aug. 1785] , below.
4. See AA 's reference to the carving abilities of “Mr. T—r” in her letter to Elizabeth Cranch, 8 March 1785, below.